- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Flipboard
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Tumblr
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
Vin Di Bona Productions, best known for America’s Funniest Home Videos, has settled a lawsuit from three former employees who alleged they were subject to sexual and racial harassment.
Both sides on Wednesday moved to dismiss the case in Los Angeles Superior Court after reaching a settlement. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.
Three women in 2019 sued Vin Di Bona and its spinoff FishBowl Worldwide Media, alleging a toxic work environment rife with sexual misconduct, retaliation and casual racism. Those employees — Tunisha Singleton, Columbia Crandell and Jessica Morse — later came forward to The Hollywood Reporter to speak on the record and share their experiences at the company.
Singleton, who was then senior manager of digital partnerships and business development, alleged her supervisor Philip Shafran repeatedly made comments about her race, including about how he was “blacker” than she was because she hadn’t watched Black Panther. She also detailed an incident at a company event where another one of her supervisors called her a “crack whore” and remarked that she’s “never going to develop” anything because “there’s no basketball show to make.”
When she reported the harassment to management, Singleton was terminated and told that her job had been eliminated, according to the complaint.
A month after Singleton’s dismissal, Crandell claimed that Shaftan sexually assaulted her by taking pictures up her skirt. She filed a police report with the Los Angeles Police Department after an investigation led to a company executive being placed on leave.
The lawsuit said that Crandell and Morse, who said she felt increasingly unsafe at the company because of the alleged incidents, were eventually terminated.
The women, however, were unable to overcome binding agreements in their contracts that required them to arbitrate their claims — an issue that lawsuits alleging workplace harassment often encounter. The judge was unconvinced by their arguments that they don’t have to arbitrate their claims because they signed their contracts with Cara Communications Corporation, which is under the umbrella of Vin Di Bona.
“Since that the records show Cara Communications Corporation is plaintiff’s actual employer, it would be nonsensical to allow Plaintiffs to avoid arbitration because they intentionally named entities other than the one named in the agreement,” wrote Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dennis Landin in a July 2019 order.
Worse yet, the arbitration agreements also provided for attorney’s fees to Vin Di Bona in the event that the company had to move to compel arbitration.
Barbara Cowan, who represented the women, argued in an opposition to Vin Di Bona’s motion for legal fees that the company is trying to “chill current and former employees’ exercise of their rights to provide testimony or seek redress for the abusive and unlawful actions of Defendants in the workplace.”
While Vin Di Bona moved for $150,000 in fees, an arbitrator decided the final, undisclosed amount.
The lawsuit sought damages for wrongful termination, harassment, retaliation and emotional distress.
Vin Di Bona Productions attorney David Fink declined to comment.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day